Sermon for June 2, 2013

Sermon for Second Sunday after Pentecost

June 2, 2013, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas

Sermon Text:  Luke 7:1-10

Sermon Theme:  “A Very Unique Faith Story”

(Sources:  Emphasis online Commentary; Emphasis online Illustrations; original ideas; Brokhoff, Series C, Workbook)


Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.


Today’s sermon text from Luke is a very unique text about faith, probably the most unique text about faith in the New Testament; and what could be more important to talk about than faith?

Pastor Brauninger tells about moving to western Nebraska after living in Michigan most of his life.  In Michigan, entire choirs of summertime frogs would sing in bogs besides country roads.  So, in Western Nebraska, where it was so dry, he missed the voice of even one frog.  For 14 years, he missed not hearing the sound of croaking frogs.

Then in the 15th year of his living in Nebraska, there were very heavy spring rains, so much so that there were ponds between the rows of crops and everywhere else there were low places.  Ducks came from nowhere and cluttered the ponds.

Soon Pastor Brauninger heard low deep sounds coming from the ponds near him, — the bullfrogs had come out of the earth to sing!  These were the sounds he had not heard for 14 years!  You see, the frog has the capacity to live for years in mud that appears even to dry and crack.  But finally, when moisture comes, the frogs surface.

Our faith becomes deeply buried at times.  At the same time, despite parched souls, joy wants to sing and remind us that the life connection is buried but can and will emerge, even after lying dormant.  I saw a touching example of this just a few days ago.

A young person in his 30’s, someone very close to me, used to be a faithful member of the church, and then after leaving home and attending college, he drifted away from the church.  We stayed in touch through Facebook and by email, and by my sending him inspirational things that I had written.  I lost touch with him, and after months of silence, he wrote me just four days ago to tell me he had not only joined a church but was very faithful and active in that church, and was planning to do something to help and care for others so that his life would finally have meaning.

And to think I was about to give up on him.  Indeed, faith lies dormant for years without drying up and dying.

Not only can faith lie dormant, but there are two more unique aspects of faith that Luke presents in our text.

The second one is that no one is beyond the concern of Jesus, and we do not realize the lengths to which Christ will go to help.  Some people think they are unworthy of Jesus’ concern.  Maybe they are too poor.  Maybe they have been bad and lived a pretty dissipated life.  Maybe they consider themselves to be of the wrong race or nation.  The text has good news for those people.

Jesus goes to the home of a pagan, a hated Roman enemy, a Centurion.  The Centurion had a servant or slave for whom he was willing to pay money to help.  So the Roman Centurion was obviously wealthy, but the servant was a poor and lowly person.  Roman servants were essentially slaves, and were considered the lowest, cheapest form of humanity.  That the Centurion valued his slave so highly could tell us something about the heart and soul of this Roman pagan.

This Centurion showed respect for Jesus.  He did not presume to call upon Him for this favor, as if he were deserving.  The elders said he was, but he presented his request to Jesus with humility: “I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.”  Jesus praises this supposed unbeliever, this pagan, for his faith, which was more than all others in the land.  Jesus says in the text, “Not even in Israel have I found such faith.”  So it’s obvious that this pagan Gentile had strong faith, that he was indeed a believer.

The slave was healed on the basis of the Centurion’s faith which came to Jesus second-hand.  Christ is good even to unbelievers for the sake of those who believe.

The third aspect that is so unique compared to all the other stories about faith is there is no physical contact.  There is no direct communication.  There is no expression of faith by the one being healed, in this case, the centurion’s servant.   In other healing stories, Jesus speaks direct words of healing, like “Talitha, cumi…. Be silent and come out of him.”……”Be made clean.”……”Stand up, take your mat, and go to your home.”……..”Lazarus, come out.”

The wonder of this healing experience is that there are no words of healing.  Jesus isn’t limited to any prescribed formula.  He doesn’t have to touch the man or put mud on his ears, doesn’t have to even get near him.  And further, what is really mind-boggling is that we have no idea whether the slave he is healing has any faith or not.  It is very likely that he does not.  Jesus makes it clear in a number of passages that faith is necessary in accomplishing miracles, but the one with faith is the Centurion who asks Jesus to heal his slave.  This tells us that Jesus encourages and hears intercessory prayer.  When we pray for someone else, He hears us.

You notice that Jesus was willing to go to the Centurion’s house, but he was stopped a short distance from the place, and when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well.  Jesus could heal even at a distance.  There isn’t even any direct communication between Jesus and the one being healed.  Jesus did not see or touch the dying slave.  Thus, although Jesus is in heaven, He can still help us on earth.

To be sure, this story clearly shows that God’s mercy has no boundaries as He shows compassion for the Roman centurion and his slave, whose race or ethnicity we do not know.  Jesus says, as we quoted Him before, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.”  Wow!  Now think about that statement.  Does that mean this Centurion, this Roman professional military pagan, has a faith greater than Jesus’ own mother, Mary?  More faith than Simeon?  More faith than John the Baptist?  More faith than Peter, James, John,  or any of the other disciples?  Well, isn’t that what he said?

There’s this incredible story about this street person, a woman who was haggard and dirty and pushed all of her belongings around in a shopping cart, yet she carried herself with dignity.  Her favorite place was the large, old church in the center of the city.  She spent most of her time in the church when the doors were open.  She came to love this building and the people who came to worship there.

She really did not have a religion, she was not perceptive enough to understand theology, or any doctrine about God.  But she loved this church and the people who came there, and so she decided she would pray to their God, — “their” God, because she didn’t think she herself had any worth to have a God.

She would come into the church and pray.  Her prayer was a simple one – always the same — she prayed for protection from the fiercely cold winters, and for relief from the heat in the summer.

And let me tell you something.  Each day for the past two winters, she has always found a warm place to sleep, sometimes the very last bed in one of the shelters or in the lobby of a building left open for the homeless.  In the summers she always found a cool, shady tree in one of the parks where no one would bother her.  People were kind to her, giving her food and even clothes.  She was always amazed at their kindnesses.  She felt secure and protected and loved in a strange sort of way.  Again and again God answered her simple prayer, hearing the least of those who came into the large, old church.

God loves all people.  He does not discriminate.  He wants all people to be saved!  He offers His grace to all, His amazing, amazing grace; and we are saved by that grace through faith.  Amen.


Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.